The Process of Selecting a Disability Lawyer

If you are someone that has been denied social security benefits or had a supplemental security income claim denied, choosing to hire an attorney might be the next option. This decision will require thought and research in order to connect with a disability attorney that best fits both you and your case. While this may not be necessary for all situations, sometimes legal help is the best route to getting the income you need to survive. When you have a disability lawyer by your side, it adds a certain level of credibility. These individuals are experts in the subject area and are familiar with the different state laws. If you have been denied benefits, they may also know loopholes or other routes to take that will lead you to a successful outcome.

Prior to hiring a lawyer, you will need to do adequate research. Using the Internet, search for lawyers specializing in helping individuals receive social security disability benefits in your area. Review their websites, read reviews online and checkout testimonials from other people that have worked with them. Look for a lawyer who already has several years of experience in the field and is familiar with laws in the state where you live. Choose several different possibilities and then call each lawyer to schedule a consultation.

Consultations are often free, but you must be prepared for them in order to take as much away as possible. This is an important step that will lead you to your final decision. Be sure to write down any questions that you would like to ask prior to the consultation. Ask questions in regards to cost, the lawyer’s experience, how they would approach your case and whether or not they think you can have a successful outcome. During the consultation, be sure to only briefly describe your situation and then proceed through your list of questions. This time is about you and how you can connect with this person.

After meeting with several different social security disability lawyers, evaluate what each had to say. In addition to choosing an attorney with a proven track record and experience, you also want one that you connect with. Ask yourself questions, such as; did this person make me feel comfortable? Do I like their personality? Did they communicate efficiently? Then, once you have fully analyzed the options, you are ready to make a decision.

Sometimes the battle to earn social security disability benefits or supplemental security income can be grueling. If you have been denied and want to appeal this ruling, consider hiring and social security disability lawyer to help you win your case.

Poor, And Disabled!

“He’s in a nursing home,” my friend got teary eyed. Her best friend, John, became addicted to pain pills after a bad fall that broke his neck earlier this year. “He doesn’t have insurance. He was getting therapy at Beaumont hospital and making progress, and didn’t have the coverage to continue. The nursing home is really far, I haven’t been able to see him,” she explained. I’ve heard stories like this before. My other friend was surprised. Many people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) cannot get the adequate care they need to recover. It’s so tragic. “We had a fundraiser, and raised $11,000 dollars. His wheelchair alone cost $37,000,” she continued.

Lifetime costs of someone with SCI are anywhere from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000, depending upon their level of injury. In Michigan, we have something called “no-fault” insurance. This usually applies to automobile coverage, in which accident victims receive direct payment from the company with which they themselves are insured. No matter whose fault it is. It relieves a lot of tension, and avoids hassle.

I also had an accident. While crossing the street on my way to school, at sixteen years old, I was hit by a car. It was auto-related. I was a minor, and my father had insurance at the time. Thus, for life, I am covered for physical therapies, or any appointments related to my accident because Michigan has no-fault insurance.

We are one of a few states that has it. There is a battle to try to ban it. If that were to happen, people would have a limited number of physical therapy sessions per year. I’ve completed maybe several hundred hours of physical therapy. A “fixed” number of therapy sessions would not be enough. How could anyone get out of a wheelchair and walk, with a fixed number of therapy sessions? With a spinal cord injury it would be hard.

The problem is, people like John, and others whose stories I’ve heard either exhaust their savings, or simply cannot afford to get well. I met a guy who fell from a tree while hunting, and became spinal cord injured. He was athletic, a gym teacher, and no one would’ve thought. He had a fundraiser, as did John, but how much can fundraisers cover with the outrageous rising costs of healthcare and physical therapy? It’s almost as if you have to be a millionaire, to get injured. Only then could you afford it.

Motor vehicle crashes account for 40.4% of reported SCI cases. The next most common cause is falls at 27.9%, acts of violence at 15.0%, recreational sporting activities 8.0%, and other/unknown 8.5% – according to Mikeutley.org

Physical therapy can cost anywhere from $100-150 dollars per hour. Sometimes more! I’m blessed to have coverage. I receive physical therapy now two times a week. I go to the gym alone the other times. I thank God I’m healthy. Now I am able to walk with forearm crutches. I’m hoping to recover enough to walk with no walking device. But what if my circumstances were different? What if my injury had been worse? What if my accident wasn’t auto-related, or my father didn’t have insurance? What if I was not in Michigan, and in a state that didn’t have no-fault?

AccessABLE Travel And Doing Your Homework

A recent vacation taught me some valuable lessons about accessible travel I would like to share with you. My own temporary disability lasting only a few months presented me with valuable first hand experiences that will benefit our readers.

My several decade career, specializing as a Disability Insurance Advisor, gave me a unique perspective being actively involved with employees of client companies filing long term disability (LTD) claims. We essentially “counseled” disabled employees that were filing LTD claims who didn’t understand the claims process.

“Hitting the Wall”… At the point of becoming disabled, there’s the “shock” of we “cross the line” in a single moment. One minute we’re healthy, the next we’re disabled. It happens in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

The most obvious impact on their “psyche” began with the psychological impact of no longer being in excellent health without any limitations. When added to the instantaneous negative impact on their medical condition, its’ been likened to “walking into a wall”. In addition to the physical and emotional trauma of becoming disabled, then added impact of an immediate change in lifestyle can be overwhelming to the hardiest of souls.

How do we get to the bedroom on the second floor in a wheelchair? How will you get into the shower? Where do we buy grab rails for the bathroom? And who is going to install them? For seniors with arthritic hands, where do we find dress or shoes with velcro enclosures. They are most welcome benefits for seniors with arthritic fingers.

At the worst imaginable time, decisions on adapting to a completely new, very different lifestyle needs to be made.

As I was a month away from rotator cuff surgery, I couldn’t use one arm in a normal manner. Taking public transportation from de Gaulle Airport in Paris led us to the “tube” (the rapid transit system under the streets of London). Arriving at our stop downstairs from our hotel, we discovered there was no “lift” (an elevator to street level). After dragging two heavy suitcases with one arm, up very steep stairs, I was grateful for my “good” arm.

Upon returning home to the U.S., I went on-line and did my very first accessible travel search. My first task was to pull up a map of the London rapid transit system and a whole new world of opportunity appeared on my computer screen. There was a map of the entire London rapid transit system where I could see all the transit stations that had “lifts” (elevators).

I then might have searched for hotels and bed & breakfasts that were close to the stations with lifts. Were I disabled the next time around, I would simply do some accessible travel planning to enjoy a trip to London.

The key message here is to “do your homework” before embarking on your vacation travels. My guess is that future vacations will bring you more enjoyment then you might have imagined.

The next part of my accessible travel journey was an invitation to speak to a Parkinson’s support group. As I had created a handbook on accessible travel opportunities, a young lady had discovered my publication and bio on-line. She asked if I would be willing to speak on accessible travel to a group of 40 to 50 people that consisted of Parkinson patients and their caregivers.

What I learned next is probably the most valuable lesson I can offer anyone with any form of impairment or disability that used to travel but has stopped completely. My epiphany occurred when I simply asked if the members of the support group were having any difficulties with their travels. What I heard next was “yes”, it seems that everyone in the group had basically stopped traveling completely!

Since my work life involved helping people file disability claims, I discovered there were a multitude of variations in the severity of Parkinson’s. I learned there were folks with the symptom’s that initially lead to a specific (Parkinson’s) diagnosis all the way to those who were seriously impaired and totally disabled. It seems that with the initial diagnosis, that was a primary factor in stopping their travel. Possibly an assumption was made that continuing to travel would be too much to deal with.

In wondering what had transpired, there was no way to know whether a conscious or subconscious decision had been made. I wondered whether it was fear of the unknown, or possibly assuming “it” (travel) would be too much to handle. Was there possibly an apprehension about being away from their doctors or treatment facilities? Or was it just fearing the unknown?

Another option I pondered had to do with how many of us feel more comfortable with familiar surroundings. We’ve all heard the expression “creatures of habit”. For most people, we know that “home is where the heart is”. More than being heartfelt, our homes are where we’re most comfortable. Familiar surroundings bring us a sense of comfort.

Don’t we all have our favorite restaurants? I know for me that there’s at least three different routes I can take to drive to my office, all about the same distance yet I have to make a conscious effort to change my route.

Returning to my Parkinson’s support group experience, each member came with a spouse, parent or friend who were caregivers. I asked the audience for a show of hands of those who had Parkinson’s. I then asked if it was upsetting that the vacation trips had stopped. There was universal acknowledgement.

I fully understand it can be most upsetting watching a loved one facing a downturn health wise. There’s no way a healthy caregiver can fully appreciate the impact of diminishing health. The most relevant point I want to make is that you’re the one who is becoming more frail due to a compromised medical condition, please note the impact on your life partner who’s no longer joining you on vacations and acknowledge your awareness of their care and changes in lifestyle.

Copyright 2016

Allan Checkoway, RHU

Disability Insurance Claims Law – How to Handle the Details

If you are filing a long term disability claim when you have been injured or become ill and cannot work, it is helpful to know that disability insurance is more complicated than most insurance. There are very strict rules that must be followed.

Be careful about time limitations and deadlines. In the policy it will say when a claim must be filed. Most policies have a 60 day filing window. Be sure to file paperwork ahead of deadlines, and sending all documents and records by overnight registered mail.

Keep your disability claim information private. Do not post details or comments or complaints on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any disability-related forums, bulletin boards, chat rooms, social networking sites, or other online places. It does not matter if you have just filed a claim or the insurance company has been paying your benefits for ten years – putting this information on the web could lead to your losing the benefits.

Insurance companies monitor social media for their claimants very carefully and more than one person has lost their benefits or had a judge render a different decision based on their online comments. If you are filing for a disability claim and post vacation photos that show you hiking in the mountains, the insurance companies will consider the photos evidence against your claim.

Once a claim is received by the disability insurance company, they will send you forms that are required to process the claim. Among them will be a claimant statement, attending physician statement, and authorization forms permitting access to health, financial and occupational materials from third parties.

Financial records are used to evaluate income, assets and earnings. This feels intrusive and prying but providing the information correctly is important. For salaried employees, tax returns and W2 earnings statements will be simple enough to provide. If you own a business or are a partner in a professional practice or another complex earnings situation, the request for financial records can be overwhelming. It is important to check the specific language of the policy to learn what the disability insurance company is entitled to – and what is none of their business. The policy is the contract that governs the entire process. If you are asked to provide something that is not included in the policy, contact the insurance company to clarify and explain the request. Carefully document questions to minimize non-compliance issues.

Most disability policies require you to undergo an IME – Independent Medical Exam. Keep in mind that the doctor performing the examination is being paid by the insurance company. Disability insurance company doctors are not independent. Be careful! Disability claimants who believe they are speaking with a sympathetic doctor are always shocked when the doctor who seemed so nice reports that they are perfectly able to go to work. Many recent court decisions, including several in our own practice, have found it very clear that the medical exams paid for by the insurance companies are not independent. This inherent conflict of interest is something the courts are watching carefully.

The insurance company may NOT ask that a disability claimant undergo an invasive test or require claimants to travel a far distance to have an examination performed. The insurance company is obligated to schedule an IME within a reasonable distance from your home.

If you are ordered to take a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE), be careful. Read your policy closely to determine whether or not it specifically requires you to take this test. If the FCE is not in the policy, the law does not require that you take it. The FCE is used to test maximum effort. If you do go for an FCE and are asked to do anything that you know you cannot do without pain or discomfort, say no and do not perform the action. There is controversy surrounding this test and it can be dangerous. Document how you feel after the test and if you can, go to the doctor to make sure to document what injuries you might have suffered from taking the test.